SOCHI, RUSSIA // Sochi will host a Russian Formula One Grand Prix from 2014-2020 under a deal announced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today, though the first race could be postponed if it affects Winter Olympics preparations.
"We have reached an agreement with the principal owner of Formula One," Putin told Russian business leaders at the meeting held in a downtown hotel. The Black Sea resort is hosting the Winter Games in 2014 and that could see the opening race put back a year if necessary, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak noted.
Russia is the latest confirmed addition to an already expanded calendar, with a record 20 races scheduled for next year. India is making its debut in 2011 after South Korea's inaugural race next week. A return to the United States, with a grand prix in Austin, Texas, is scheduled for 2012. Ecclestone has said 20 races is probably the limit for the glamour sport, meaning that some races in the European heartland could be dropped, although he has also joked about adding more.
"We are not dropping anything. (It's) 20 races - getting ready for 25," he said back in April, long before the 2011 calendar was published. In July, Ecclestone said Formula One needed to be in Russia more than any other candidate for a race. Russia has its first Formula One driver in Renault's Vitaly Petrov, although the rookie's place at the team in 2011 has yet to be confirmed due to his inconsistent performances.
Petrov has, however, attracted several Russian sponsors to his team including part Renault-owned carmaker Lada.